Reimagining the Campus Experience in the World of Hybrid Work

Aug 10, 2022
IT Leadership

Rethinking the in-office environment for hybrid work is just as important as enabling remote work capabilities.

asian woman laptop
Credit: Aruba

By: Stephanie Crawford, Solutions Marketing Manager at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

Recent discussion about hybrid work has centered around enabling employees to work remotely, but remote work is only half of the hybrid equation. Equally important is ensuring that the corporate office environment provides the workspace and the technology to support this new way of working. Naturally, the network infrastructure plays a big role.

As a key business tool and an enabler of a successful hybrid workplace, a modern, flexible network should provide: 

  • Robust campus Wi-Fi that supports the traffic demands of bandwidth-hungry applications at scale
  • A platform for the increasing number of IoT devices used to support a fluctuating population of on-campus workers and a smart office setup 
  • A consistent experience for workers, regardless of where they are when they log in 
  • unified infrastructure that simplifies network management and security for wireless, wired, and WAN infrastructure across campus, branch, remote, and data center locations—with acquisition, deployment, and management options to suit business needs 

The evolution of the office 

The way people work has changed, and the office has to adapt to meet their new needs. This means that although workers are “returning to the office,” it may no longer be the familiar place they remember. For example, the corporate campus may only be a part-time location for many full-time employees.

While knowledge workers have become adept at using home offices for independent work, the campus provides a better environment for face-to-face meetings and collaborative efforts. This subtle shift changes the requirements for both the office space and the corporate network.

Creating a collaborative campus with Wi-Fi 6

To support the campus as a collaborative space, companies are reworking floorplans to create more shared spaces in a variety of configurations. There are new video-enabled conference rooms, and cubicles are being cleared out in favor of wide-open spaces—both indoors and out—that are more conducive to conversation and impromptu collaboration. These common areas require robust, ubiquitous Wi-Fi to support an increased appetite for bandwidth-hungry, low-latency business applications such as video conferencing and Wi-Fi calling.

After all, these apps aren’t going away just because people are back in the office. A distributed work force, differing in-office schedules, and a reduced need for travel all mean meetings are going hybrid too, with a mix of in-person and remote participants. Hybrid employees are bringing their bandwidth-intense apps to the office with them, and if the infrastructure can’t manage all that network traffic, it can negatively impact the business. 

Fortunately, Aruba’s portfolio of AI-powered Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E access points offers a perfect fit for these new demands, providing prioritized, high-bandwidth access in high density areas. These APs are equipped with Air Slice, application assurance that goes beyond device-based airtime fairness to identify and prioritize mission-critical applications, ensuring an excellent user experience. This is just one example of how the modern network, an essential enabler of hybrid work, delivers business (not just technology) outcomes.

APs as IoT platforms

With a more transient workforce comes even more opportunity to create smart spaces with IoT devices. Already in use within smart buildings, environmental sensors to control things like lighting, heating, and cooling can deliver even more savings—without compromising safety or comfort—in a hybrid setting where occupancy can vary significantly from one day to another. Today’s offices may also take advantage of IoT devices to enable air quality monitoring, wayfinding, access, and door-locking systems, or even hot-desking or hoteling solutions used to book in-office workspaces. 

Since Aruba’s Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E APs can be used as IoT platforms, those IoT devices can become part of the corporate network—no need for a separate IoT overlay network. While IoT devices have earned a reputation for lackluster security and for joining networks without the knowledge of or permission from IT, Aruba ESP’s identity-based access control supports Zero Trust and SASE frameworks to ensure only authorized devices join the network. Meanwhile, AI-powered Client Insights, part of Aruba Central’s cloud-native network management, ensures those devices are all identified and governed by established policy enforcement rules to ensure traffic is segmented and each respective device can only access IT resources it’s entitled to access.

A consistent experience, wherever you’re working

There are clearly differences between working on campus and working remotely, but the network experience shouldn’t be among them. Although employees may work in multiple locations, they expect a consistent experience whether they’re logging on from their remote office or a corporate campus—and Aruba EdgeConnect Microbranch delivers it. Role- and device-based security provide a consistent level of access, while policy-based routing intelligently routes cloud traffic, eliminating the need to direct all traffic through the data center for inspection. This improves performance while ensuring policies are applied universally, regardless of location.

Similarly, Aruba Central provides network administrators visibility and management for the whole network—wired, wireless, WAN, branch, and remote offices—all from an AI-powered single pane of glass with deep visibility into total network and client health.

Network as a service for greater flexibility

Just as Aruba ESP provides a flexible, modern networkHPE GreenLake for Aruba provides a wide variety of flexible network as a service (NaaS) options to suit unique business needs. OpEx options allow customers to upgrade to the latest hardware when it’s available, rather than waiting for capital depreciation on existing hardware. Organizations can also opt for the flexibility to scale the network up or down according to business needs, and they can choose to manage the network in-house, outsource the management, or a combination of the two—all either ongoing or on a project basis. This allows businesses to get the network they need without the constraints of traditional acquisition, deployment, and management approaches.

Going back to something better

The way the work force works continues to evolve, and workplaces need to keep up. In order for a hybrid workforce to take full advantage of the benefits the on-campus experience can offer for better business outcomes, the network they’re going back to will likely need to be better than the one they left. Additional information can be found in these resources: